Winterizing a Travel Trailer | What Guidelines I Follow

Winterizing a travel trailer is vital to prevent freezing, which can damage plumbing and tanks. Cold temperatures can cause water to expand and crack fittings. Proactive winterization safeguards your trailer during storage, ensuring its integrity in freezing conditions.

This article offers a systematic guide to winterizing travel trailers, covering drainage, antifreeze protection, appliance disconnection, exterior storage prep, and ongoing monitoring. Following the outlined process prevents costly disasters like burst pipes or ruined tanks.

Proper winterization ensures RVers peace of mind, knowing their trailer will emerge undamaged in warmer weather. Diligent seasonal maintenance secures plumbing and critical equipment, guaranteeing a safe, road-ready, and fully winterized trailer for new adventures come spring.

Winterizing a Travel Trailer

Winterization of a Travel Trailer

Before starting to winterize, gather necessary supplies: RV antifreeze, water hoses, a high-pressure pump if needed, and any winterizing accessories specifically for your rig. Ensure tanks are as empty as possible beforehand. Perform steps carefully and in order.

Step 1: Draining the Plumbing System

Proper drainage prepares pipes, tanks, appliances, and fixtures for antifreeze.

A. Dump and flush holding tanks (fresh, gray, black water): It’s important to fully empty and flush the fresh, gray, and black water holding tanks using the respective drain valves. Adding a tank treatment helps break down waste and prevent buildup over winter.

B. Drain the hot water heater and sink: Draining the hot water heater through its drain valve and running the sink taps ensures no water remains in those systems. This prevents freezing and burst pipes.

C. Open low-point drains and faucets to drain pipes: Locating and opening low-point drain valves, along with opening all faucets, allows for complete drainage of the plumbing system. Water left sitting risks expansion damage.

D. Flush the toilet to empty: Flushing the toilet multiple times clears all water from the bowl and lines which could freeze and crack.

E. Empty water pump and filter: Clear the water pump and filter of any remaining water to prevent freezing. This extends pump life.

F. Drain exterior shower/sink fixtures: If your travel trailer has exterior fixtures, drain them to avoid freeze-related issues. Use compressed air or a wet vacuum to force any standing water out.

G. Consider installing bypass valves to make winterizing easier: Installing permanent bypass valves for winter makes annual drainage much simpler and more efficient without needing to access low-point valves. They redirect antifreeze only to the necessary areas, saving you time and effort.

Step 2: Adding RV Antifreeze

With plumbing drained, filling pipes with nontoxic RV antifreeze displaces remaining water and prevents freeze damage.

A. Use RV-safe antifreeze, not automotive antifreeze: It’s critical to use a non-toxic RV/plumbing antifreeze rather than standard automotive antifreeze which can be hazardous if ingested.

B. Add to holding tanks via gravity fill: Pouring antifreeze directly into the holding tank openings allows it to thoroughly fill tanks to displace water that could freeze and crack them.

C. Run antifreeze through pump and lines: After drainage, running the water pump will distribute antifreeze through pipes and lines as it is successively pumped through opened outlets. This displaces any remaining water not drained.

D. Pour down sinks, shower, toilet: Similarly, directly pouring antifreeze down sinks, showers and toilet bowls fills their drain traps and adjacent supply lines.

E. Flush out black tank to prevent solid buildup: Flushing the black tank with additional water and antifreeze helps break up and inhibit solid buildup from any waste still present.

Step 3: Other Winterizing Steps   

Complete additional appliance and system preparation beyond basic plumbing.

A. Drain and flush the hot water heater: The hot water heater requires draining and bypassing heated lines per its manual to avoid damage. Flush with antifreeze too.

B. Winterize the refrigerator as per manual: Each refrigerator model may differ slightly but generally food is removed, interior wiped down, doors positioned ajar, vents covered properly, and power disconnected.

C. Clean the trailer thoroughly before storage: Washing and wiping all surfaces makes cleaning easier come spring before using again after storage. Tidying up reduces pest and odor risks too.

D. Close propane tanks and valves: Verifying propane valves are fully closed and tanks detached or empty protects against leaks/fires and gives gauges a reset for next season.

E. Disconnect and store batteries: Batteries discharged deeply over winter may fail to take a charge again so storing them indoors or on a trickle charger is best practice.

F. Remove perishables and anything that can freeze: Avoid unpleasant surprises by double checking for easily forgotten foodstuffs or liquids that could burst or spoil if frozen protects your investment and reduces mess.

G. Turn off electrical appliances like the fireplace and water heater: Prevent unnecessary power consumption and reduce the risk of malfunctions by turning off all electrical appliances with water lines like interior fireplaces or mini water heaters under sinks.

Step 4: Storing for the Winter

Take extra steps when parking your RV in cold weather.

A. Park trailer on level, solid ground: Ensure a stable and level surface for winter storage. Flat sturdy ground prevents shift and sinking that could stress connections. Concrete pads and packed gravel do well.

B. Cover tires to prevent dry rotting: Protect tires from deterioration by covering them during storage. Breathable tire covers avoid sidewall cracking from UV and ozone exposure. Clean treads beforehand.

C. Consider covering the roof and windows: Additional protection against the elements can safeguard the trailer’s interior. Where snow loads are heavy, using a roof/window sheath prevents collapsed panels, and broken windows and keeps out pests.

D. Use tire and stabilizer jacks to take weight off: Distribute the weight evenly and reduce stress on the tires and suspension. With jacks lowered at all 4 corners distributing weight off the suspension prevents tires from taking a flat-spot from static load.

E. Open cabinets and drawers for air circulation: Prevent musty odors and mold by allowing air to circulate inside cabinets and drawers. Using small vented foam blocks keeps doors/drawers aligned but lets air move to avoid musty smells.

F. Secure any loose exterior items: Ensure that nothing on the exterior can be damaged or cause damage during winter storms. Tree sap, bird droppings, rain, and wind can degrade add-ons like awnings or solar panels over months, so take down what you can.

This systematic winterization will have your beloved travel trailer ready for spring and prevent expensive freeze damage during storage. Take your time and use the correct materials – your first freeze-free season will pay off the effort.

Importance of Winterizing Your Travel Trailer

Winterizing your camper thoroughly is critical to avoid expensive repairs when spring arrives. It may seem like a boring chore, but it saves money and hassle later. If pipes, tanks, or appliances burst from freezing, fixing the damage is very costly.

Beyond the financial savings, taking the time to winterize well also sets you up for smooth summer trips without breakdowns ruining your road adventures. Sealing up openings so mice or moisture don’t cause harm, relieving pressure on joints, and disconnecting fittings correctly – it’s all preventative care.

When you finally get back on the road next season, you’ll be grateful to have a reliable ride ready to transport you places without worrying about avoidable issues cropping up. Past diligence in taking those proactive steps pays off through sturdy performance on the highways when the sunshine returns. Whether you’re storing your trailer or planning a winter journey, prioritizing winterization is a proactive measure to secure your investment and guarantee a trouble-free return to the road when temperatures rise.

Cost of Winterizing Your Travel Trailer

Preparing your camper or RV properly for winter may seem like a chore, but it saves lots of money and headaches down the road! Taking some time upfront pays off later.

Whether you winterize the plumbing yourself or have pros do it, know that Year 1 costs the most for supplies, and then it drops yearly after that as you reuse gear. Saving thousands long-term makes sense.

Here’s an estimate of costs based on common options:

MethodYear 1 CostAnnual Cost5 Year Total
Antifreeze Fill$45$30$165
Air Compressor$165$15$225
Full Service Shop$125$125$625

The numbers say it all – doing it yourself saves thousands over just a few years! But if you’re too busy, a shop may be worth it to avoid giant repair bills from burst pipes later. Either way, winterizing is smart to prepare your mobile adventure base for fun times ahead!

Key Questions

Q1. Can I blow out water lines with an air compressor instead of antifreeze? 

A1. Air compression alone often fails to remove all water, so antifreeze fill is the surest bet for winterizing. Use air with caution and moderate PSI.  

Q2. How do I winterize trailer appliances beside plumbing fixtures?

A2. Follow individual manual directions – fridge, hot water heater, furnace, etc. Each has a particular procedure, though many involve moisture removal, positioning doors/vents, adding insulation, or disconnecting power.

Q3. Where should I store my camper for winter?  

A3. Inside a garage is ideal if size permits. Otherwise, look for a flat solid surface like concrete or packed stone. Avoid soft ground and ensure adequate support beneath jack pads. Face hitch north if outside.  

Q4. Do I need a cover or sheath while stored in winter?

A4. Covers provide protection from snow, ice, UV rays, and animal intrusion and are recommended but not always required unless stored exterior. Ensure breathability and a snug fit if using.  

Q5. What PSI do I inflate tires to for seasonal storage?

A5. Add 8-10 PSI over normal pressure, so around 50 PSI for most trailer tires. This prevents flat-spotting from static load without risking a blowout from expansion in warmer weather.  

Q6. When is it safe to de-winterize and use water systems in spring?  

A6. Wait until overnight temperatures consistently remain above freezing (32°F/0°C). Test appliances sequentially before fully reconnecting tanks. Prime water pump and check for leaks too. Staggered warm-up reduces risk.

Final Thoughts  

Practical winterizing is crucial to avoid plumbing system and appliance damage from freezing. By methodically addressing drainage, antifreeze fill, propane system closure, and secure storage precautions, your camper will rest protected over winter. Come spring, restoring tanks, valves, and appliances in a staggered manner will have you ready to resume your camping adventures freeze-free. With proper materials and diligent adherence to each step, winterizing can become a simple annual routine.

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